EDSON, Alta. (May 17/2001) - Defending Canadian rally driving champion Tom McGeer hopes to reassume command of this year's title chase as the series heads to Alberta this weekend. But he will face stiff competition, most notably from Sylvain ...
EDSON, Alta. (May 17/2001) - Defending Canadian rally driving champion Tom McGeer hopes to reassume command of this year's title chase as the series heads to Alberta this weekend. But he will face stiff competition, most notably from Sylvain Erickson, winner of the last championship event.
McGeer and Erickson each has one win this year and they are currently tied in the overall standings, both with 20 points. The Bighorn Rally - round 3 of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama - takes place on Sunday (May 20) in and around the town of Edson, 200 kms. west of Edmonton.
McGeer, of Georgetown, Ont., drove his Subaru Impreza WRX to victory in the season-opening Rallye de Quebec, with American Mark Williams as navigator. It was his fifth straight win, dating back to the middle of 2000, when he took his third national championship crown.
But his winning streak ended with a rare engine failure at the next event, the Rallye Perce-Neige Maniwaki. Victory there went to Erickson, of Gatineau, Que., in a Mitsubishi Lancer, with brother Philippe navigating.
This was the second career win for Erickson, whose first triumph came here on the Bighorn in 1996. He retired from competition the following year, to spend more time with his family, but is making a comeback this season, now that his children are older. McGeer has also won the Bighorn before, back in 1993.
The past four years, the Bighorn has been won by six-time Canadian champion Frank Sprongl. He is not entered this year, as he has opted to cut back on his schedule. Although he currently leads the championship, with 30 points from a pair of second-place finishes, he has said he is not pursuing a seventh title.
A total of 23 cars are entered. Other top contenders include McGeer's Subaru Canada team-mates, Pat Richard, of Vancouver (the defending production class champion) and John Paynter, of East Sackville, N.S., and Eagle Talon drivers Barry Latreille, of Williamstown, Ont., and Brian Scott, from Michigan.
Local favorites include Gord Olsen, of Brooks, Alta., who won the Group 2 class - for modified two-wheel-drive cars - at last year's rally.
This is the 19th edition of the Bighorn, first run in 1983. It is the first of two back-to-back events in Alberta. The Rocky Mountain Rally, out of Calgary, will take place the following Saturday (May 26).
The Bighorn begins at 8 a.m. on Sunday at Vision Park in the northeast part of Edson. Edson's mayor, Gary Mahon, will be the official starter. Afterwards, teams will head out to forest roads to the north and south of town.
There will be 15 special stages - the competitive portions of the rally, held on roads temporarily closed to the public - covering about 160 kms., or a third of the total rally distance of 480 kms. Competitors are expected back at rally headquarters, the Guest House Inn in Edson, at about 9.30 p.m.